COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Woody Hayes, the former Ohio State football coach whose hot temper nearly overshadowed one of the best coaching records in college football, died early today. He was 74.
Rick Bay, OSU's athletic director, said Hayes died at his home in Columbus of a heart attack sometime during the night. His wife discovered he was dead when she awoke at 6 a.m., Bay said.
Hayes, who won 12 Big Ten titles at Ohio State, was an admirer of Gen. George S. Patton and, like Patton, a punch thrown in anger helped torpedo his career.
For 28 years, Wayne Woodrow Hayes was Mr. Ohio State Football. He replaced Wes Fesler in 1951 and survived 28 stormy seasons in a job that had been considered 'a graveyard for coaches.'
However, on the night of Dec. 28, 1978, in the closing minutes of Ohio State's 17-15 loss to Clemson in the Gator Bowl, a frustrated Hayes slugged a Tiger player in front of the Buckeyes' bench.
The next morning, Hayes was relieved of his duties by Athletic Director Hugh Hindman -- a former line coach under Hayes -- ending a colorful but controversial career.
Patton also came under a barrage of criticism for slapping a shell-shocked soldier in a hospital during World War II.
The Gator Bowl incident was only one of several in which Hayes was involved over the years, including confrontations with newsmen, cameramen and fans and the famous smashing of a down marker late in the 1971 Michigan game.
Hayes had suffered several heart attacks and strokes in the past 13 years.
Archie Griffin, who played for Hayes for four years and was the only player to win the Heisman Trophy twice, said, 'I loved the man. He meant everything to me. It hit me as if my father had passed away. He was a man who cared about people like nobody else did.'
Former Ohio Gov. James Rhodes also was saddened.
'He was a magnificent human being,' Rhodes said. 'He dedicated his whole life to young people. He will go down in sports history as one of the greatest coaches of all time.'
Hayes won seven outright Big Ten championships and shared five titles in running up a 205-61-10 record.
Hayes, a historian, spent much of his time in recent years traveling the country making speeches and working on his fourth book in what he called his 'third career.'
'I figure every man has three careers during his life,' Hayes said. 'My first was being in the Navy, then came coaching and now I'm giving speeches and writing books.'
Hayes, a diabetic, suffered a heart attack in June 1974 but by the time football season rolled around in September, he was back on the sidelines.
A tireless worker, Hayes' daily schedule usually ran from early morning until late night, seven days a week. He often said of opposing coaches, 'They may outthink me, but they won't outwork me.'
Hayes underwent gall bladder surgery in May 1981 and less than two weeks later had to have a second operation to remove a surgical sponge left inside him.
Hayes took the second operation in stride, telling the doctor: 'I don't know how a doctor could make a mistake. I coached for 40 years and never made one.'
After his dismissal as coach, Hayes refused to attend an Ohio State game for two years, fearing he would draw attention from his successor, Earle Bruce, also a former assistant and good friend.
He made his first visit 'home' to Ohio Stadium for the Sept. 12, 1981, opener against Duke, sitting in a private room in the press box.
Although he stayed away from the game and said he did not miss the actual coaching, Hayes did keep in touch with his former players, with whom he lunched frequently.
'I had enough of that,' he said of coaching. 'I don't miss that at all and I've always been able to adjust. I still get to see a lot of kids. My door is always open.'
A staunch Republican, Hayes was a friend of many national political figures, including Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, a former football captain at the University of Michigan, Ohio State's bitter enemy.